It’s another busy weekend ahead and the hope for all the SFL clubs will be that they can look forward to an entertaining yet successful weekend whilst the rest of the footballing fraternity fret over what will happen on and off the pitch at Ibrox. With Morton, Arbroath and Elgin City up top the First Division continues to be the tightest league, the Second providing some interesting high scoring games – particularly for fans of Dumbarton and Airdrie United – and the Third has big names – Rory McAllister and Paul Hartley amongst them – having huge questions asked of them. But what’s the likely result of this weekend’s fixtures? Let’s have a look.
Queen of the South v Greenock Morton
This is not only top versus bottom but top versus the bottom team that beat the top team last week. The Palmerston side go into the game with no suspension or injury worries, although Marc McCusker continues to miss out on making his debut. Morton will be without recent addition Kevin McCann and Allan Moore is well aware at this stage in the season he needs more points on the board before anyone should get carried away with themselves. The momentum Morton carry should see them through this weekend’s fixture successfully.
Hamilton Academicals v Raith Rovers
This is 2nd v 3rd and for many will be the game of the day. Billy Reid will be looking to bounce back from last week’s disappointment against Queen of the South. This year’s home form has been far better than last year’s for his team and they should be boosted by the return of both Simon Mensing and Mark McLaughlin from the naughty boy’s bench. Unfortunately Alex Neil and Willie McLaren are still out. Getting both of them back would be a significant boost to their promotion chances. Raith will be without captain, Iain Davidson once again as well as Ross Callachan who remains suspended. A trialist goalkeeper is reported as being put on the bench following a training knock to Ross Laidlaw. Home advantage should be the telling factor and though I agree with John McGlynn who predicts a close contest I think the points will stay at New Douglas Park.
Falkirk v Dundee
Falkirk will be without Kallum Higginbotham and Stewart Murdoch for the visit of Dundee. The loss of Higginbotham in particular could be telling considering the way he has been getting on the score sheet recently. David Weatherston and Blair Alston should make the step up from the bench to fill in. Dundee, by contrast have only got Stephen O’Donnell missing. All three carrying suspensions shows how silly bookings and sendings off may take their toll on the smaller squads in this Division even this early on in the season. Falkirk put Dundee out the Ramsdens Cup earlier on this season and though revenge may not be a factor for Barry Smith it is all set up for an away win.
Ross County v Livingston
County will go into this game with a win, draw and then a loss being their last 3 results. The slide is sending them the wrong way in the league but their boost this week was when Gary Miller’s red card was down graded to a yellow. He is therefore available to play against his former club. Sam Morrow has been named in the squad for the first time this season though Scott Morrison is still out. Gary Bollan’s team have got lots of supporters from their style of play this season and with a full squad from which to draw Bollan will hope that their last two outings will be a distant memory soon. Two draws against 9 men teams have drawn fixed odds statisticians to the team but not points they feel they deserved. County may find this a tough game from which to get anything.
Partick Thistle v Ayr United
Ayr United boss Brian Reid left Cappielow last week mystified over their 4-1 defeat to Morton. He will wait on youngster Ross Robertson to prove his fitness whilst Stewart Duff looks likely to play his last game as a trialist. Partick will be without Tommy Stewart as well as Willie Kinniburgh but apart from that have a full squad from which to pick. Partick are on a mini run just now – undefeated in 4 – though they are becoming cursed by draws. I think this may be another one.
SFL DIVISION TWO
Arbroath v Airdrie United
Manager of the month, Paul Sheerin will go into this game cautiously, particularly as his opponents have a high scoring reputation. Jimmy Boyle is well aware that entertaining though his games have been he needs to get more of them where they are winning than losing by 4/5 goals! Sheerin will be without Craig Wedderburn as well as Jordan Elfverson. Airdrie United will be without Fraser Keast and news is breaking that having just got Ally Woodburn back from injury he has broken down in training. Both teams play attractive football and this could be the game of the day. I am going for a high scoring game but one in which the away team starts to get their act on track.
Dumbarton v Cowdenbeath
This could also end up being a high scoring game as both teams are capable of scoring many in 1 game. Dumbarton’s hope that their 2 on loan defenders – Dominic Kennedy and Ross McKinnon – will shore up the worst defence in the Second Division. Cowdenbeath are without Dene Droudge, Mark Ramsay and Danny McKay. Colin Cameron will want to shore up his own defence whilst continuing to play attractive and free scoring football. Like many games where teams go into the fixture with a reputation for scoring we have been left wanting at the end of the game, I think this will be a bore draw.
Albion Rovers v Stenhousemuir
Paul Martin has once again major headaches before a game. Ryan McStay and Ciaran Donnelly are banned. Todd Lumsden and Barry Russell are injured alongside Martin waiting on the results of the fitness tests required for Michael O’Byrne, John Gemmell and Simon Marriot. Joseph Acqual is now available. Stenhousemuir manager, David Irons has also got injury concerns and will wait on news of Eric Paton, Paul McHale and Sean Dickson but knows that Kevin McKinlay is already out. This should be an away win.
Stirling Albion v Forfar Athletic
The Binos will be without Shaun Dillon and Callum Reidford and will await news of Daly McSorley but Jocky Scott knows he needs winning ways on the dressing room as his team have stuttered in recent weeks. Forfar have added Aberdeen’s Jordan Brown on loan and Ross Campbell of the Campbell clan is available again though brother Iain is still not fit. I think this will turn into another draw although Forfar’s recent momentum should make them favourites for all 3 points.
East Fife v Brechin City
It was never in the script for John Robertson’s side to be bottom of the league and the cup exploits of his side will keep criticism off his back but winning in the league is needed. Jim Weir’s side sit just outside the play off places and have a tradition of getting in there by the end of each season. The Fifers will be without recent signing Paul McQuade and late fitness checks are needed for Lloyd Young and Stevie Campbell. Steven Hyslop, however, is back. Derek Carcary will be suspended for Brechin and will join, on the sidelines, Craig Molloy and David McClune. Both sides have things to prove and this is an intriguing tie. It could go either way but I would go for a home win and Robbo to start getting the season where he wants it.
SFL DIVISION THREE
Elgin City v Clyde
Newly at the top of the table, Elgin City welcome the Community Interest Club who have made a much better start to the season than last year. Daniel Moore is suspended for Elgin City whilst late fitness tests will be given to Brain Cameron, Archie McPhee and Craig Gunn though Jason Crooks is back. Clyde have Pat Scullion and Craig Tully missing whilst Gavin Brown is back. I’d go for a slim home win.
Montrose v Annan Athletic
Montrose picked up their first win last week whilst Annan lost their 100% record. Jonathon Smart and Terry Mason are missing for Montrose as well as David Dimilta and will wait on a late fitness test for Stephen McPhee. Annan are welcoming back Graeme Bell but up front have to wait on the fitness of either Ian Harty or David Cox. Absences could be vital here though I think Annan will be hurting too much for Montrose to get their second win of the season.
Queens Park v Alloa Athletic
Queens Park continue to have people posted missing with Giuseppe Capuano and Darryl Meggat added to Michael O’Mara and Steven Baillie on the sidelines. Late fitness tests will decide on Allan Urquhart and David Anderson. Jamie Brough is also unavailable. Fraser Forerst is the only face missing from Paul Hartley’s squad so this looks like an away win – doesn’t it?
East Stirling v Stranraer
East Stirling will hope new loan signing from Aberdeen, Nico Gibson will solve their scoring issues. They have not won in 5 games whilst Stranraer have Mark Durnan for one more game before he goes back to St Johnstone. David McGregor is out whilst Keith Knox has sent out Stewart Devine and Ryan Kennedy to Junior teams for experience. East Stirling will be missing Joe Savage. I take Stranraer to continue their winning ways.
Berwick Rangers v Peterhead
Let’s be honest the way that people talked up Rory McAlister before the season began you would be forgiven for thinking he had a cape. Peterhead sit second bottom and this is hardly the fault of one player. Peterhead go into the game with a fully fit squad as well as new loan signing Jamie Bishop from Forfar Athletic in the squad. Berwick Rangers welcome back Andy McLean to replace Chris Townsley whilst keeper Ian McAldon is out. Both teams could do with the win and it may be down to who is the hungriest – the lads from the North or the boys from the South. I have a funny feeling the North will be celebrating at 5pm tonight…